Yonkers, NY — Eight of the top ten most reliable brands are from Asia, and only one–Buick–is a domestic, according to the latest Annual Auto Reliability data from Consumer Reports (CR), the nonprofit research, testing, and consumer advocacy organization. But there were some positive indicators for the domestics, too, as American models topped seven vehicle categories–an unusually strong showing.
The 2021 Auto Reliability Report is based on data collected from CR members about their experiences with more than 300,000 vehicles in the annual surveys. The survey findings were announced at an online news conference before the Detroit-based Automotive Press Association today. Owners reported everything from transmissions needing replacement after as little as 5,000 miles to display screens that required hardware replacement and misaligned tailgates and doors.
“With new-car prices at all-time highs and a shortage of vehicles on dealers’ lots, it’s more important than ever to consider reliability when you invest in something new,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. “Buying a reliable vehicle can help ensure that you’ll be able to hit the road when you need to, and not worry about getting stuck waiting on parts for repairs.”
Other highlights from CR’s influential annual report include the following:
- Despite their complexity, hybrids and plug-in vehicles are among the most reliable models.
- High-end electric-powered Sport Utility Vehicles are among the least reliable vehicles, but NOT because of their relatively simple powertrains. Complex electronics are their Achilles Heel, at least for now.
- Some Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, and Toyota models continue to have problems due to technologically advanced, and complex, transmissions.
CR’s auto statisticians calculate reliability ratings for every major mainstream car, minivan, SUV, and truck on the market, even ones that are brand-new and redesigned for 2021. To do so, the team analyzes annual CR member surveys data on a model’s reliability history, calculating the brand’s overall reliability and, if applicable, the reliability of models that use some of the same components.
Consumer Reports’ analysis of new-car reliability is a key element of CR’s Overall Score, which is a holistic measure of a vehicle’s quality designed to make it easy for consumers to quickly find the best cars, SUVs, and trucks to suit their needs. The Overall Score also includes road-test performance, owner satisfaction survey results, whether a vehicle comes with key active safety systems, and results from crash tests, if applicable.
“The pandemic is creating a scramble for consumers as they face a reduced supply of new cars and significantly higher prices. That’s why it’s more important than ever that people get trusted help finding safe, secure, and reliable vehicles,” said Marta Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports. “Our annual reliability reports, combined with our comprehensive auto testing, can empower consumers with the trusted information to make better purchases and navigate this unusually difficult marketplace.”
Eight of the 10 Top Brands are from Asia
Of the top ten most reliable automakers, eight are headquartered in Asia, with Lexus, Mazda, and Toyota in the top three spots respectively. Historically, Lexus and Toyota have regularly been at the top of CR’s brand rankings for reliability. That’s an especially noteworthy accomplishment for Toyota, which has a wide array of different nameplates in the survey–13 in all. Mazda, which was the top brand overall last year, falls to second place. Mazda’s above average overall performance was marred by the Mazda3 small car, which has average predicted reliability due to problems with its climate system and in-car electronics issues. Mazda has a conservative design approach with shared platforms and similar components, which helps it to produce reliable vehicles overall. Mazda has also stuck with its dependable six-speed automatic transmission while other automakers use more complex ones with eight or nine ratios or continuously variable transmissions, some of which have proven troublesome.
All Lexus models score average or better for reliability in CR’s report. The Lexus GX SUV is the most reliable new vehicle overall this year; owners reported no problems for the three model years that CR analyzed in the brand rankings. The UX is Lexus’ only average model.
Third-ranking Toyota has only one model scoring below average, the Corolla Hatchback; CR’s members reported issues that required a transmission replacement or rebuild. The RAV4 remains average mostly because of problems filling the fuel tank on some versions. The Tacoma and the redesigned-for-2021 Sienna are both also average; the Sienna showed some power equipment problems. Both the RAV4 Prime and Venza, new for 2021, are well above average.
Infiniti ranks fourth overall, an admirable improvement of six spots this year. The Q50 sedan remains impressive and the troublesome QX50 SUV improved to average.
Buick is the most reliable domestic brand, coming in at fifth place overall. The Encore and redesigned Envision are both well-above average, and the Encore GX is above average. Surprisingly, the Enclave drops to below average, with transmission, drive system, and blank in-car electronics screen issues.
High Rankings for Several Domestic Models Mark Signs of Improvement for U.S. Manufacturers
Models from five domestic brands, Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Chrysler, and Ford, take the top spots in seven categories–an unusually strong showing. They include:
- Buick Envision (Luxury Compact SUVs)
- Chevrolet Trailblazer (Subcompact SUVs)
- Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and its twin the GMC Sierra 2500HD (Full-sized Pickups)
- Chrysler 300 (Midsized/Large Cars)
- Ford Bronco Sport (Compact SUVs)
- Ford Mustang Mach-E (Electric SUVs)
- Ford Ranger (Midsized Pickups)
CR’s data also shows that hybrids and plug-in vehicles are among the most reliable models even though they have unusually complicated drivetrains. These vehicles include the Honda Insight, Kia Niro and the Toyota Prius, Prius Prime, RAV4 Prime, and Venza. One likely reason for their reliability is that most of these are well-established models that haven’t seen radical changes over the years. Even the new-for-2021 Venza uses a tried-and-true powertrain.
The analysis also shows that fully-electric SUVs are among the least reliable vehicles. They include the Tesla Model X and Y, Audi E-Tron and Volkswagen ID.4. All have a high rate of problems in areas other than the electric powertrain. Some of these problems include climate controls, in-car electronics, and power equipment.
Honda Ranks Sixth in Brand Rankings
Honda ranks sixth among brands, down one from last year, with the Insight scoring well-above average. The CR-V, Accord, and Ridgeline score above average and the remaining models are all average. Both the Passport and Odyssey have improved, though owners still report issues with the infotainment system freezing and power equipment. Some Odyssey owners also report problems with the sliding doors.
Subaru comes in seventh overall. The Crosstrek is well-above average, and the Legacy, Impreza, and Forester are above average. However, the Ascent still has subpar reliability.
Acura’s rank is eighth overall. The TLX has exhibited impressive reliability in its first year after a redesign, and the redesigned 2022 MDX has above average first-year reliability after below-average reliability with its previous generation. The RDX improves from below average to average, though it still has ongoing issues with brakes, power equipment, and in-car electronics with the display screen freezing and needing hardware replacement, and software updates failing.
Nissan improves this year, moving up to ninth place–mostly because of older models including the Rogue Sport, Murano, and Leaf, which show impressive reliability.
Mini rounds out the top 10, making it the highest-ranked European automaker this year. Mini only has two models in the survey, the Cooper Countryman and Cooper/Clubman, and jumps 13 places in the standing. The jump is mainly attributed to its Cooper Countryman’s outstanding reliability.
Hyundai falls four positions this year to rank eleventh. The redesigned Tucson is well-above average, and the Sonata and Palisade are also above average. The Kona Electric and freshened Santa Fe are below average, with, respectively, battery pack and electric drive motor problems, and transmission and power equipment issues. Kia drops three to 19th place this year, with transmissions being the brand’s weak spot. The eight-speed dual clutch transmission that is used with the turbo engine in the redesigned Sorento is problematic. Owners of the Soul, Seltos, and Forte report a problem-prone CVT that could require replacement. The Niro Electric improved and the Telluride remains outstanding.
Genesis’ reliability is suffering as the brand rapidly grows with new models. While the G70 has improved to average, the new GV80 SUV scores well-below average due to infotainment screen and drive system problems.
Four Domestic Brands are Midpack
Domestic brands are midpack or below–Chrysler at 12th, Chevrolet at 14, Cadillac at 16th, and Ford at 18th. Jeep, Tesla, and Lincoln took the three bottom ranks. Chrysler has just two vehicles in the survey–the 300, which has outstanding reliability, and the Pacifica minivan, which is well-below average due to issues including the transmission and sliding doors.
Chevrolet models spread across almost the entire range of CR’s reliability scale–some excellent and some subpar. The new Trailblazer SUV and the Trax are both excellent. After years of respectable reliability, the Bolt EV dropped to below average, due to battery problems and electric drive failures, among other issues. The Silverado 2500HD and Blazer are above average. Others, including the Corvette and redesigned Tahoe, are well-below average. GMC’s rank dropped because of similar problems as twin models from Chevrolet. The Sierra 1500, Yukon, and Canyon are all below- or well-below average. GMC’s only above-average vehicle was the Sierra 2500HD.
Cadillac improved six spots this year, helped by the reliable XT5 SUV. The XT6 and XT4 are below- and well-below average, respectively.
Ford is showing improvement this year, with the new Bronco Sport, Mustang Mach-E, and Ranger all at the top of their classes for reliability. But the redesigned F-150 scored below average, as did the Escape. Both the Mustang and the Explorer are well-below average.
Ram drops the most in CR’s brand ranking this year, sliding twelve spots to 21st. While the Ram 2500 and 1500 are both average, the 1500 Classic (the previous generation 1500) has well-below average reliability marked by problems with brakes, emissions systems, engine, and power equipment. Jeep ranks 26 and among the bottom three brands. The company’s most reliable model last year, the Gladiator, fell below average. The Cherokee and Wrangler are both below average. The Wrangler has issues with the drive system, in-car electronics, and, like the similar Gladiator, with the steering and suspension. The Cherokee has in-car electronics and some transmission issues.
Tesla, with four models in the survey, is unchanged at second from last. While Tesla’s Model 3 has average reliability, the Model Y still has body hardware issues with the tailgate and door alignment, paint defects, and multiple other problems. The Model X and Model S both have body hardware, climate system, and in-car electronics problems.
All Lincoln models have below-average reliability, with the Corsair and Aviator being well-below average. They, along with the Nautilus, have transmission, in-car electronics and power equipment problems.
Mixed Bag for European Models
Porsche ranks midpack at 13, down two from last year. The Cayenne and Macan have average and above-average reliability.
Audi is unchanged at 15th. The A4 and A5 remain above average, and are joined by the A6 and Q5. The Q7 is average, but the Q3 has below-average reliability. The Q8 and E-Tron, both well-below average, continue to have drive system and power equipment issues.
BMW is in 17th, down four. The X5, 3 Series, 5 Series, and X3 all have average reliability, but the redesigned 4 Series has subpar reliability due to power equipment problems.
Volvo is 20th overall, down one. The XC90 continues to score well-below average, mostly due to issues with brakes, climate system, and body hardware. The S60 dropped to below average this year also because of multiple issues. The XC40 is average and the XC60 is now above average.
Mercedes-Benz is in 23rd, down two from last year. The only reliable model is the GLC. The E-Class fell to below average and the GLE remains well-below average, with numerous power equipment, climate system, in-car electronics, and some engine problems.
Volkswagen is at 24th overall, up 1 from last year. While the Atlas and Jetta improved to average reliability, the Tiguan and the new ID.4 EV are both subpar.
For more information on CR’s 2021 #CRCarReliability findings, visit CR.org/reliability or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @consumereports.
About Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Surveys
The latest Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Surveys, gathered information from the organization’s members on more than 300,000 vehicles from model years 2000 to 2021. Members filled out online surveys in the spring and summer of 2021. CR’s reliability predictions are based on overall reliability for the past three model years, provided the vehicle has not been redesigned. One or two years of data will be used if the model was redesigned in 2021 or 2020. CR bases its reliability analysis on data gathered from CR members each year about problems they had with their vehicles in the past 12 months. CR’s team of statisticians and survey researchers, then analyzed trouble areas and created an overall reliability score for each model and year. Serious problem areas that can lead to expensive repairs are more heavily weighted. More information can be found at www.CR.org.